“The journey is more important than the result”: Qiong Er Jiang in an interview
In 2019, Qiong Er Jiang, founder and artistic director of the lifestyle brand SHANG XIA, supported the Red Dot Jury for the first time. In 2011, Forbes named the internationally renowned designer one of the 25 most influential Chinese in “Global Fashion and Lifestyle”. Her works received wide acclaim and distinguished design awards at national and international level. For many years, Jiang studied in Europe and has been recognised for her contribution to the cultural exchange between China and France several times. Thus, as Red Dot juror, she enriched the assessment process with a cosmopolitan approach and multi-cultural experience – aspects which are especially valuable with regard to the fact that designers and manufacturers from 55 countries submitted their innovations in the Red Dot Award: Product Design this year. During the judgement process, Jiang talked to Red Dot about her way of assessing the entries, her work and her experience abroad.
Red Dot: You joined the jury session for the first time. What do you think of the selection of the products?
Qiong Er Jiang: It is really exciting and interesting to discover the best products of the world here. It is a very intensive moment when we assess the products from all over the world which are very diversified, representing different cultures, technologies, reflections and life philosophies. For me, it is a journey of enrichment.
What does a product have to offer in order to convince you?
Firstly, a good product should be functional and user-friendly. As designers, we should think about the user. This is why design is different from art. Art is totally ego-centred while design is the service for others to make their life more comfortable, beautiful, poetic, emotional and full of surprise. Secondly, a product should be beautiful. It can have an extraordinary style, but it should be aesthetically appealing. Thirdly, a good design should have a kind of emotion. That emotion can come from materials, textures, design shapes or cultural inspirations. Sometimes, it is the craftsmanship or the story that make up the emotion.
What characterises your own design signature?
I created my own brand ten years ago and our mission is to revive Chinese traditional craftsmanship through contemporary design. Setting up my own company, I am not only thinking about design and objects. I am creating a brand. Thus, you have to think about the brand value, the space and the service. It is like a universe. Sometimes, life brings you the destiny to become entrepreneur or entrepreneurial designer. There are many of them in the jury. This is very exciting, because when the products are on the market, it is not the end. It is rather the beginning of a journey, where you push, modify and upgrade them.
You studied in Europe. How does this experience influence your work?
After my graduation, I went to Paris to continue my Master’s degree. Being born and grown up in China and having gone abroad corresponds to a Chinese wisdom. It says that you are on your own mountain, which reflects your culture. When you go abroad, you climb another mountain. The poem says that when you see your own mountain from another mountain, the perspective and beauty is different. It was a big chance to be able to watch my own culture from another mountain, being accompanied by people from all over the world. Today, it allows me to keep the international understanding and vision as well as to be open-minded. My experience in France showed me that the journey is more important than the result. When I do a design, I unconsciously get inspired by the Chinese culture, but the expression should always be beyond.
The jury members are from different countries. How did this influence the assessment process?
I am happy to meet many of my friends from all over the world. The jury members are coming from Asia, America and Europe – from very different countries – and this enriches the exchange a lot. Sometimes, we don’t have the same vision about an object. Especially, when we see a product with a strong cultural background, the jury member from that country can share his or her opinion. Either, you understand and appreciate, or we can have a great discussion about this work.
In the past, you were also awarded for your own work. What does this mean for a designer?
Receiving an award makes every designer happy. I always remember a sentence from my grandma which she told me when she was 95 years old. She said: “In our life, there are only three days: yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Yesterday, you learnt that you won an award. So, you feel great. Today, you got the price. You enjoy. Tomorrow, you forget it, because this is the day when your new journey begins.
International attention for awarded products
The products, which convinced Qiong Er Jiang and her jury colleagues with their outstanding design quality, will be published in the Red Dot Design Yearbook on 8 July 2019. Furthermore, they will be displayed on the Red Dot website and in exhibitions all around the world. On the release date, the designers and manufacturers which created the award-winning products will be honoured for their great achievements within the framework of the award ceremony. For the top event of the international design scene, around 1,200 guests will convene in Essen to celebrate the best designs of the year.